Monthly Archives: February 2011

Horseradish, Apples, and Fish.

Heck, yeah, this is what I want to eat for Lent!

Here’s a sort of Lenten variety plate from a hotel in Austria, with mostly veggies and some fish and eggs. This might be a good way to vary things for your family — let them pick out a little of everything from a plate in the middle. (You could also use up a lot of bits and pieces of veggies and things, this way.)

Interesting fact: the English “to fast” literally comes from the “stick fast” sort of meaning. (The German “fasst”, too.) Fasting is enduring, or sticking to certain restrictions. So you can see how the word easily covers both refraining from eating certain things and certain amounts. In Latin, there’s a clear difference between “jejunium” (“emptiness” – not eating or drinking) and abstinence. But there have always been a lot of qualifiers to define exactly what you’re doing….

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“Meagre Dishes”

Apparently, if you’re looking for Lent and fast-day food in oldish French cookbooks, you look for a “meagre dish” (plat maigre). They are either meatless, or meat- and dairyless. These dishes are eaten on a “meagre day” (jour maigre) when you abstain from meat (faire maigre). Things are complicated, though, by the existence of a fish which the French today call “maigre”, and by using that word just to mean “lean”.

The word for Lent is Carême. If you see non-Lent-looking food for “Mi-Carême”, that’s for Thursday in the Third Week of Lent (Mid-Lent, in this French expression), when the French have a big party to celebrate getting halfway over the Lenten hill, so to speak. There was also a famous olden days chef named Careme, so be careful! You could think all sorts of wrong things about what the French ate for Lent!

I’m sure a lot of you folks know this stuff already, but I’m hard-pressed to find useful Catholic search terms, even in languages I’m familiar with! (French and I are practically strangers.)

French Lent recipes in English.

French ideas for Lent food, in French. More French Lent recettes.

Potage de Carême. Soupe des lentilles pour Carême. Paschado. Brioche du Carême.

A poem from Monaco celebrating the stockfish.

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Lady Llanover’s Good Cookery Illustrated

If you want to read a crazy fun Welsh cooking textbook from 1867, in novel form, and written by somebody who was obviously a HUGE FAN of Gothic literature, this is the cookbook for you. It also includes some other interesting stuff, like an appendix of recipes and the best times to gather and dry herbs. There’s some very unusual food in this thing, like a mince pie made out of currants instead of raisins.

However, since leeks are in season right now, and since St. David’s Day is tomorrow, it’s important to note the recipe for Welsh Leek Soup on page 451. Dried plums (okay, prunes!) are also involved.

Anyway, Lady Llanover has thoughts on everything, including good menus for Lent:

“I should advise,” said the Hermit, “a plain poached egg on toast, without butter; a vegetable soup made of the jelly of bare boiled bones, without eggs and with new milk instead of cream… Meagre soups can be made with well-chopped and fried vegetables, provided they are fried in delicate top fat (which is allowed) instead of butter, so as to be both palatable and wholesome. A plain fruit tart with skim milk, and a plain rice pudding, needs no contrivance; and those who cannot eat simple stewed fruit alone, will find that it agrees perfectly well if mixed with skim or new milk and eaten with bread; but plain boiled or fried fish, with anchovy sauce, the melted butter part of which is prepared in the same way as the parsley sauce melted butter, is simple and innocent, for those who can take any sauce at all; but there are many persons with whom melted butter disagrees, however carefully prepared, and they should avoid it, and eat their fish with only a little salt or a little vinegar. Plain bread and cheese, bread and cold fresh butter where it agrees, water from the spring with hard biscuits….”

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Seaweed for Lent!

Pretty much anywhere in the Christian world that’s close to the sea, seaweed has always been considered an acceptable vegetable for Lent. (Although often it’s too cold and stormy in Europe to gather such things much during the winter and early spring.) They say that foods like seaweed that have a lot of iodine in ’em are good for keeping your metabolism from going too low. Seaweed also is full of fiber, besides having the normal green or dark-green or purple vegetable features. So if you start getting tired of your normal Lent foods, once it starts up, here are some weird veggies to try.

People in Brittany make seaweed butter like most places make herb butter!

Laver (a lot like what’s called nori in Japan) was a big vegetable in medieval/Elizabethan salad recipes, often with an oil and vinegar dressing. The Welsh still boil it down into a sort of pulpy loaf called “laverbread” and fry it like mush for breakfast. Here’s a recipe for laver soup.

Dulse is pretty easy to get in Ireland, Scandinavia, or Atlantic bits of Canada, although it’s more of a summer vegetable. It’s high in protein — higher than chickpeas, almonds, or sesame seeds, depending on how you measure it. It also helps cook beans faster. Here’s a Scottish recipe for Fish Pie with Dulse. Dulse in Iceland, with the funny story of Egil Skallagrimsson’s dulse suicide attempt.

Nori is available in a lot of grocery stores these days, at least the kind for making sushi. Trader Joe’s has that 99-cent package of “Roasted Seaweed Snacks” right now.

Kelp is pretty yummy also. Kombu is not only tasty, but when you cook it with beans, it’s supposed to fight flatulence! (Lots of beans being eaten during Lent, that’s all I’m saying…..)

(Hijiki is high in calcium. So if you’re fasting from “lacticaria” or “cheesefare” during Lent, this would be a good seaweed to eat. Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of it grown wild in Japan is also high in arsenic, which lends a whole new perspective to the idea that hijiki makes your hair shiny and your complexion good. Ehem. So if you eat it, for goodness’ sake don’t eat much, eat it dry, and don’t drink anything much before or after eating it.)

Here’s a good site about Irish customs, including a recipe for pancakes for Shrove Tuesday and Lenten customs. On the east coast of Ireland, it was common to eat nothing but shellfish and seaweed for dinner on Good Friday. This was called “bia tragha”, shore food.

Seaweed recipes from a seaweed company’s website!

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Switzerland Says No to Forced Matrimony

Switzerland has passed a new law criminalizing all marriages to minors (defined as “under 18”) and all forced marriages, wherever contracted. Once you enter Switzerland, they have the right to prosecute the forcer and free the force-ee. The responsible person will get an all-expense-paid vacation in a nice clean Swiss jail for five years.

This might be a tad inconvenient for a few folks from early-marriage states (which seems to be most US states these days — I had no idea!), but I think the sixteen and seventeen-year-olds will put up with not visiting Switzerland for the sake of freeing unfortunate young women from bondage.

(You can marry at 15 in Hawaii, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming, but there’s tons of parental consent required — and often the consent of a court or other body. In New Hampshire, you can be married at the age of 13 (girls) and 14 (boys). Some states don’t seem to have minimum ages, which seems… problematic… these days.)

I’m not knocking early marriage — my grandmother married young in a quick trip to Kentucky — and it’s certainly better than sleeping around and making your kids illegitimate. But holy cow, the stuff that happens when your back is turned.

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Will the Kindle Be Free?

Obviously, the real money for Amazon is in getting a near-monopoly on e-books. They’ve already provided free reader apps for computers and such. But the numbers guys think that, pretty soon, they’ll be giving away the Kindle just to encourage everybody to buy e-books.

Given the number of middle-aged and older adults (like my parents) who still aren’t on the Internet, and given that a lot of older adults are big book buyers, giving away a wireless device may be the only way for Amazon to creep their way into that market. It might also allow existing magazines and newspapers to switch over to electronic publishing altogether (though they really need cheap photo rates on color Kindles, then!). If older readers can use their own choice of font sizes, that might repay them for the anxiety and annoyance of using an electronic device. Maybe. (I still suspect that at some point, corporate America will just abandon those who don’t like computers and the Internet.)

If this is the plan, what I said earlier this week about Amazon wanting to hold onto Amazon Prime physical customers by giving them freebies is even more important. And lookie here. Amazon may be giving away Kindles to Amazon Prime customers. (If they give them to everyone, that means existing Kindle owners will have one to give away.)

In many ways, the Kindle is “crippleware”, particularly with its absurdly high prices for publishers who want to use photos or illustrations beyond the cover. But if it’s cheap enough, people who’ve held back till now will be okay with that. Also, if Kindles are “free”, you can bet that sales of competing devices will drop.

Well, don’t hold your breath or anything. But if you’ve held off buying a Kindle this long, you might want to hold off a little longer.


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Howsabout All That Rain Last Night?

You look at the Doppler map, and it’s still all blue. 🙂 But it’s cleared up a lot, compared to last night and early in the morning. I’ll probably go to work a little early to avoid Storm Part III.

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